How adoption works (domestic adoption through an agency).
I would assume it is similar with most agencies but this is obviously our experience through our agency, Bethany Christian Services.
1. Decide you are going to adopt and find an agency. If you decide to adopt for whatever reason you need to decide what route you are going to take, whether that is domestic, international, through an agency, private adoption, or working with an adoption specialist. I would definitely recommend going through an agency because it offers you a level of protection and allows you to work with experts and you always have someone to ask questions to and who can offer you support.
2. Once you decide on an agency attend an information meeting, most agencies offer a free information meeting where you learn about adoption, what it is, what it costs, what your agency will do for you etc.
3. If you decide to continue with your agency after the adoption meeting you fill out a basic application and this usually has a fee accompanying it. It asks for your basic information, family info, financial info, info about your jobs etc. Once this is submitted and approved you get assigned a social worker.
4. You get your homestudy packet/ paper work. There is A LOT. You need people to fill out reference forms, you need your fingerprints done, there is a very specific financial statement you need to fill out. You need to get a physical done at the doctor, you need to apply for a background check, you need your HR to fill out a paper about health insurance, and so on and so on and so on. It took us about 6 weeks to fill out and send in all the paper work. And you have to pay your homestudy fee, ours was 2,000 I think.
5. Once that is sent in your social worker will contact you to set up the first of 3 visits. This visit is in your home. Our social worker came in and just asked us basic questions about our marriage, our town, our jobs and basics about our family. From here we schedule our 2nd meeting - which is individual interviews at a location close to your social worker, either her office or a neutral setting - ours was in a church.
6. Individual interviews - these are about 1 hour or 2 hours each depending on the situation. My interview was 1 hour, Adam's was an hour and a half. The social worker asks more in depth questions about our histories, our families, our marriage, and our parenting values. Over all pretty easy to answer, just lots of talking about me!
7. This can be anywhere between step 3 and step 8 - this is the adoption training. Each agency will have their own style for training, but each agency must have it because certain things are required by the state. You also have mandatory on your own training. During these steps you also need to fill out your preferences sheet before your final interview. This is where you decide what you are comfortable with as far as drug/ alcohol/ tobacco used in the parents, mental illness in the family, any disabilities in the family or the child, race preferences, preferences on openness of relationship with the birth family. This decides which birth mothers will be able to see your profile book.
8. Final interview with your social worker - We haven't done this yet but from my understanding - she will do a home inspection - looking for things like safety, making sure your house is baby-proofed, your medicines are locked away, you have enough smoke detectors and a fire extinguisher, that your baby has a room to sleep in, etc. She will go over any discrepancies in your individual interviews, and ask you some questions about your marriage together. She will also go over your preferences sheet with you. At this meeting you also make a "service plan" which is where you create learning goals for yourself, so if you are open to transracial adoption you could make a goal to listen to a webinar about transracial adoption.
9. Before your final interview you want to start working on your profile book - which is just a photo book basically, with information about you and your family. You need to include a letter to the expectant family, basic information about yourselves, your town, pictures of your house, and things that are important to you. You also need to talk about daycare, your friends, what you like to do, etc. When this is finished you make copies and send it to the agency's offices throughout the state. You can also place a small profile online with our agency - you can post 3 pictures and a letter to the expectant mother/father.
10. Your social worker will finalize and approve your homestudy. If your book is done when this happens you then send it to the different offices. You have to pay some different fees after your home study is finalized - ours adds up to $7,500.
11. Wait. Whenever your book is shown to a family you will know. During the wait time you should work on your service plan and pray. A lot.
12. Option 1 - You've been matched. A birth mother wants to interview you because she liked your profile book, so you meet with her, her pregnancy counselor, and your social worker. She can ask you questions, you can ask her questions, and just generally get to know each other.
13. If she decides she likes you and wants you to adopt her child then you are considered a match and you wait some more! Sometimes the birth mother will invite you to the ultrasounds, sometimes she will allow you in the delivery room, it is just up to her! You go to the hospital when she is having the baby, and how much you see her and the baby is totally up to the mom. Sometime during her hospital stay she signs her paper saying she is making an adoption plan. Then when she and the baby can go home, you go home with the baby.
12. Option 2 - A birth mom gives birth in the hospital and doesn't make an adoption plan until then. So the pregnancy counselor brings some profiles to the hospital and she picks right there. The baby will go into interim care until all the paperwork gets filed and you agree to take the baby.
14. You wait 10 excruciating days after the birth mom signs her paper. Then the baby cannot be removed from your possession.
15. Until the baby is 6 months you will get 3 visits from your social worker just so they can update your paper work to send to the courts with the lawyer. At 6 months your adoption lawyer will start filing the paperwork to finalize the adoption. And 3-4 months later it will be finalized!
16. For the rest of your child's life you need to send updates one way or another to the birth family and/or the agency you need to send one at 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, 18 months, 24 months and once a year from then on.
17. You raise your child with whatever relationship to the birth parents as you decide upon.
Obviously this is the structure, but things can always come up and plans can always change, one HUGE thing about adoption is being FLEXIBLE!